My Dog, Cerberus

poem by Suzy Levinson , illustrated by David Legge

Learning intention

I am learning to examine the different ways a story might be represented.

Success criteria

  • I can analyse an image to identify how a character has been represented.
  • I can identify vocabulary that reveals the writer’s portrayal of a character.
  • I can identify key points in a Greek myth about Cerberus.
  • I can compose lines of a poem that show an alternate representation of the character of Cerberus.

Essential knowledge

View the video Representation on The School Magazine website. Discuss the meaning of the word ‘representation’. Ensure students conclude that the representation of a topic may differ depending on the personal preferences and opinions of whoever composes the text.

Learning resource  

Discuss the illustration that accompanies My Dog, Cerberus and whether students think the dog in the image looks friendly or mean. Students will most likely comment on elements such as:

  • the dog’s face on the left appears to be sneering, which students may interpret as the dog being mean
  • the dog’s face in the centre appears more neutral, that could mean the dog is seen as neither friendly or mean
  • the dog’s face on the right, staring up at the ball, which might be interpreted as the dog being more fun-loving

Read the poem, My Dog, Cerberus. Discuss examples of language in the first four lines that hint at the dog’s demeanor. Vocabulary hinting that Cerberus is a fun and well-loved dog, includes:

My dog’s like any other dog. (implying the poet does not see their dog Cerberus as any different from other dogs)

He still does normal puppy stuff. (the use of the word ‘puppy’ makes the dog sound fun loving)

He’ll fetch a ball. (implying Cerberus likes to play)

Place students with a partner and instruct them to identify further examples, from the remainder of the poem that imply Cerberus is fun-loving and well loved. Sample responses include:

He’ll shake my hand.

six ears flapping in the breeze!

My dog’s three times the fun!

He loves a bone (or three).

he’s just ‘good boys’ to me.

Emphasise that the representation of Cerberus in the poem, My Dog Cerberus, seems fun-loving and good natured.

Inform students that they will be composing a poem about Cerberus, based on the way he is represented in Greek mythology.

View information on the ancient Greek myth Cerberus found on Kiddle. Discuss key points, ensuring students note the following:

  • Cerberus is a creature from Greek mythology who, according to the myth, belongs to Hades.
  • Cerberus guards the gates of the Greek underworld and he ensures the dead are kept away from the living.
  • He likes sweet things such as honey cakes.
  • To become friends with Cerberus it is recommended to talk to his owner, Hades.

Emphasise that this version of Cerberus seems more aggressive and ferocious than the one represented in the poem, My Dog, Cerberus.

Discuss vocabulary that could be used to describe the version of Cerberus represented in the original myth, for example: ‘guard’, ‘underworld’, ‘ferocious’, ‘sweet-tooth’, ‘watches’. Note the examples on the board for students to refer back to.

Analyse the structure and rhyming pattern of My Dog, Cerberus. Ensure students note the following:

  • that it features one stanza
  • the rhyming pattern is ABCB
  • the number of syllables alternates every second line, between 7/8 syllables in the odd numbered lines, and 6 syllables in the even numbered lines

Note: to assist students with identifying the number of syllables in each line instruct them to clap while reading the words or tap the syllables on their knees as they say the lines.

Collaboratively compose the first four lines of a poem, representing a different interpretation of Cerberus, from that shown in My Dog, Cerberus. Use a rhyming dictionary, such as rhymezone to assist with identifying rhyming words for the vocabulary identified earlier. For example: ‘hard’ and ‘card’ to rhyme with ‘guard’, and ‘twirled’ and ‘curled’ for ‘underworld’.

A sample response has been provided below:

Cerberus’s three-heads stand guard,

He snarls, top lip is curled,

Keeps dead and living apart,

Guard of the underworld.


Place students in small groups. Instruct them to work with their peers to write additional stanzas to add to the one composed collaboratively. Remind students to use the poem, My Dog, Cerberus, for inspiration of style and structure and to use the list of vocabulary composed collaboratively.